It is believed that Prince Madoc of Wales discovered Mobile Bay in 1170. In 1497, Amerigo Vespucci was thought to have mapped Mobile Bay. In 1510, Alonzo Alvarez de Pineda coasted past Dauphin Island and up the Mobile River.
Mobile's active history dates back about 300 years: between 1699 and 1701 the French colony of Louisiana is established. The main settlement is first at Biloxi, later moved to 27-Mile Bluff on the Mobile River. The French explore Dauphin Island, Mobile Bay, and the Mobile River Delta, establishing friendly relations with the native inhabitants.
It was Jean Baptiste le Moyne who founded the city of Mobile in 1702 and named it after the Indian tribe "Maubilla" which lived in the region. Mobile at 27-mile Bluff becomes the capital of French Louisiana.
Mobile has always prospered because of its strategic location. A deep bay and harbor area offered a perfect shipping port. The barrier islands of Gulf Shores and Dauphin Island were ideal for military strategists. There they built strong forts to assure that only welcome guests ventured into the bay. Today these many historic forts offer visitors a glimpse into the past.
History hangs upon Mobile like the Spanish moss that drapes her live oaks. Already old when the Civil War began, Mobile is distinguished from younger cities throughout the state by her rich Spanish, French, African and Creole heritage. History is reflected not only in the architecture of Mobile, but in cuisine and cultural diversity.
Mobile's role in the history can still be seen during a visit to Fort Morgan at Gulf Shores and Fort Gaines on Dauphin Island. The 1864 Battle of Mobile Bay was a turning point in the Civil War when Union troops attacked both forts to take control of the last active Confederate Port on the Gulf of Mexico. Determined to take the Port of Mobile, after losing the ironclad Tecumseh to torpedoes Confederate defenders had planted, Admiral David Farragut cried, "Damn the torpedoes! Full speed ahead!" and overtook the Port for the Union.
Five historic house museums take you back to days gone by and oak-lined streets wrapped in Spanish moss guide you through a renovated downtown. During December, the historic homes offer candlelight tours and "open houses" that invite visitors to enjoy the holiday decor while sipping on Christmas punch and listening to a holiday ensemble. Even Old Saint Nick usually slides down the chimney of each home sometime during the holidays.